THERE isn’t a great deal for Doctor Who fans to laugh about in David Tennant’s Hamlet in Stratford.

But there’s a whole lot to admire in this bare, bleak look at a man being driven to the edge of madness after his father’s death.

Following Tennant’s comic repose in Love’s Labour’s Lost, Hamlet is a trip to the dark side. Some Doctor-type humour squeezes through but it’s Tennant’s portrayal of Hamlet’s disintegration that really catches the eye.

Gregory Doran’s down-to-the-boards production at the Courtyard Theatre – complete with shining stage and subsequent underlighting – gives space for a powerful display.

And it’s not just Tennant who hits the grade though his performance is obviously pivitol.

Another celestial lord, Patrick Stewart, has left Star Trek light years behind to concentrate on his stage powers. As the ghost and Claudius, he binds the differing strands together as the central evil plotter.

Penny Downie, as widow and quickly-married Gertrude, gives a warm performance of a woman caught between the love of a man and that of a son.

But it’s Oliver Ford Davies who so nearly steals the show with his bumbling, bungling Polonius by providing some light relief in the darker passages.

Tennant has brought a new audience to the RSC and has been loyal to his task by providing powerful performances. It may not be the best staged at the RSC but it may prove the most popular.

Hamlet finishes on Saturday in Stratford before transferring to London’s Novello Theatre from December 3 to January 10.